Photo of the Week – April 12, 2019

Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) is one of my favorite grasses, and certainly among the most distinctive in North American prairies. It’s also a great photographic subject, though a tricky one. In close-up photography, there is little depth-of-field to work with, which can make it tricky to get multiple items in focus at the same time. One trick is to move the camera so that all those objects are the same distance from the camera and simultaneously in focus. That’s more difficult than it might sound, even with a subject like sideoats grama, in which all the flowers are arrayed along a single stem.

Depth-of-field issues aren’t the only challenges involved in photographing sideoats grama. It’s tough enough to situate my camera so most of the flowers are in focus, but in addition to that, I try to do so in ways that provide some open space behind the flowers and produce a clean background. The vagaries of prairie winds, and the difficulty of photographing small subjects waving around in the breeze add yet another layer of difficulty. I’m not complaining, mind you – just trying to explain how satisfying it is whenever I am able to capture a clean sharp image of sideoats grama. The exquisite beauty of the plant makes all the struggle worth my while. I hope you enjoy this selection from my sideoats library!

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

7 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – April 12, 2019

  1. You have a gift for pointing out nature’s beyond-lavish abundance of detail. Thank you for making these beautiful, tiny details so much more accessible to everyone. I can only try to imagine your patience with the wind and changing light. Hopefully you don’t have to put up with chiggers too….

  2. Your description highlights for me the marvels of our eyes and brain that permit us to observe such as side-oats grama grass heads as being all at one time in clear focus. THANKS for sharing your passionate observations of the natural world! Chase

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